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De Anza students host renter rights’ panel, dialogue with San Jose City Council member

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De Anza College held a panel on rent control, featuring San Jose City Council member Lan Diep, on Feb. 23.

Salma Bizcaia, 19, criminal justice major, organized the panel. She opened the event with a story: “Back in 2010, I was in eighth grade, when my family was displaced from our apartment for no reason, and we had to throw more than half of our belongings away from our apartment … we had to live in our car,” she said. “I’m very supportive to renters’ rights, because it happened to me more than once.”

Diep said he understood Bizcaia’s pain as a fellow renter. “I was in a room in somebody’s home, and now I’ve finally got a place to myself,” he said.

Melissa Morris, who. supervises housing rights practice at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, a free legal services organization said for those seeking renters’ rights in San Jose, eviction protection and the Ellis Act ordinance would be coming before the city council this Spring.

A local Ellis Act Ordinance “creates a standardized and formalized process for issuing notices, providing relocation benefits, and creating some protections for tenants when a rent stabilized property owner makes the financial decision to remove their property from the rental housing business,” according to the draft recommendations for the city of San Jose document.

“Get involved with the student renter’s rights group. Learn about what’s coming up in city council, talk to your city council member about why protecting tenants is so important to students and to the community,” she said.

Diep said the solution of high housing prices is more housing supply and San Jose is a bedroom community, losing out on jobs. “Residents sleep in San Jose and go to other cities to work and shop,” he said. “We need to preserve industrial land, mom and pop shops.”

Diep said the community needs to get more tax revenue off of employment tax dollars.  “We don’t have the revenue to fund our police department, to fix our potholes,” he said.

Morris said Lan Diep “did mention a lot about economics, the market and how it plays a role.” She said she didn’t agree with everything.

“There’s more to it. It’s not all about the market … There are certain other ways to relieve homelessness and displacement rather than just focusing primarily on economics all on it’s own,” she said.

The meeting was opened with a screening of a documentary on youtube called “Million Dollar Shack: Trapped in Silicon Valley’s Housing Bubble.”

In the film, a bay area realtor said the people who work in tech industries tend to be really brilliant, great people who work amazingly long hours.

“The person who’s working hard at Google [has] more of a right to be here than somebody just because their parents were here and they complain they can’t afford a home. I would say just work harder,” the realtor said. “Get more education, is my advice to them.”

This comment offended renter Daniela Richey, who has owned her apartment for many years and is nearing senior citizen status. “Cities are responsible for this happening because they’re allowing the landlords to come in and tear down these old apartments, and then rebuild them and double the rent. That’s wrong,” she said. “Not even people coming out of college can afford that in many cases.”

Richey said young people don’t have a future in San Jose. “Who can afford $2500 a month?” she asked.

Suleima Ochoa, 21, women and gender studies major, community studies major, said, “It would be nice to not live at home … being responsible on my own, not living with my parents.”

A realtor in the documentary claimed residents with high IQ were preferable. Ochoa said the comment “made me feel like I’m not good enough to be here.”

Diep concluded the panel thanking the crowd for the input and said he would “bring these experiences with me as I contemplate the issues that face the city in the future.”

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